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Homework Help: Acceleration due to solar radiation pressure

  1. Aug 8, 2006 #1
    Q: Near the Earth the flux of the EM energy from the sun is ~ 1.4 kW/m2. If an interplanetary sailplane has a sail of mass 1g/m2 and negligible other weight, what would be its acceleration due to solar radiation pressure?

    Help! I am a stuck on this. However, I have a few thoughts:

    We know that F = ma, since we know the mass and can solve for the Force we can find the acceleration. But, finding the Force is a little tricky. Could we just (maybe) intergrate the stress tensor?? If so, I am a little unsure as to how I would go about doing this


  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 8, 2006 #2
    I havn't done anything on this topic at all. But my guess is there must be some formula that you can use that incorperates kw/m2 and g/m2
  4. Aug 8, 2006 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    Well, a power is a change in energy per unit time. Maybe try relating the power of the available solar flux to the change in KE of the sailship per unit time. Sailplane? Sailcapsule? Sailwhatever.

    Here is a diagram that should help:


    EDIT -- There may be a factor of 2 buried in the final answer, BTW. I seem to remember that the solar wind is reflected off solar sails to generate the solar thrust. But, I'm not sure about that. What do you get when you try googling this stuff?
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2006
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